Eight-ball, sometimes called stripes and solids and, more rarely, bigs and littles or highs and lows, is a pocket billiards (pool) game popular in much of the world, and the subject of international amateur and professional competition. Played on a pool table with six pockets, eight-ball is the most common pool game in the world and is so universally known that beginners, often aware of no other pool games, ubiquitously believe the word "pool" itself refers to eight-ball. The game has numerous variations, including Alabama eight-ball, crazy eight, English eight-ball pool, last pocket, misery, Missourri, 1 and 15 in the sides, rotation eight ball, soft eight and others.
In its most common incarnation, eight-ball is played with sixteen balls: a , and fifteen , consisting of seven striped balls, seven solid balls and the black 8 ball. After the balls are scattered on a break shot, the players are assigned either the group of solid balls or the stripes once a ball from a particular group is legally pocketed. The ultimate object of the game is to legally pocket the eight ball in a called pocket, which can only be done after all of the balls from a player's assigned group have been cleared from the table.
A summary of the international rules follows (see the WPA/BCA or IPT published rules, which conflict on minor points, for more details):
The balls are usually colored as follows:
The table's playing surface is approximately 9 ft. by 4.5 ft. (regulation size), though some leagues/tournaments may allow other sizes.
If the breaker pockets a ball, it is still that player's turn and the table is considered "open" (meaning the breaker can still make any object ball to determine if he/she will only shoot or throughout the game). If the breaker fails to make another ball after the break, the table is still considered "open" until someone legally pockets a ball.
According to World Standardized Rules, if the 8 ball is pocketed on the break, the breaker may ask for a re-rack or have the 8 ball spotted and continue shooting. If the breaker scratches while pocketing the 8 ball on the break, the incoming player has the option of a re-rack or having the 8 ball spotted and begin shooting with behind the .
For regional variations, see below.
The English Pool Association is recognized by the Sports Council as the governing body for pool including blackball in England.
In most of Latin America, including Mexico, shots are un-, as in British pool (i.e. count, a concept foreign to most American players other than APA league members). In many if not most areas (Brazil being an exception), fouls result in behind the only, as in American bar pool (allowing for intentional scratches that leave the opponent a very difficult shot if all opponent balls are forward of the headstring).
A common Latin American variant of "" is that each player is allowed either one (or even two) cue ball scratches when shooting for the 8, which must be pocketed in the same pocket as the shooter's final object ball. Such fouls simply end the shooter's turn at the table and give the opponent ball-in-hand behind the head string; only the second (or third, respectively) such scratch is a loss of game (though scratching the 8 ball itself off the table or into the wrong pocket is an instant loss). This version is common even in US pool bars that are dominated by recent Latino immigrants. This requirement has a profound effect upon game strategy – it is effectively 5 times harder to – and most North American (and British, etc.) players are completely unprepared for it, unless they are last-pocket players. Players must be very mindful what they do with their last few balls, and common failure to get that allows for the last object-ball shot to set the player up for an easy 8 ball shot into the same pocket leads to long games with many , and shots on the 8.
In some parts of Latin America, especially South America, the 1 ball often must be pocketed in the right side pocket (relative to the end of the table one breaks from), and the 15 ball must be pocketed in the other side pocket (left). This rule probably developed to make it harder to run out after the first shot. Position play takes a larger role in this variation, and a player's strategy must necessarily initially revolve around getting the 1 or 15 in and preventing this opponent from doing likewise. When racking the balls for this variation, the 1 and 15 balls are placed behind the 8 ball at the center of the rack, the 1 ball on the left and the 15 ball on the right (from the racker's perspective). Latino last-pocket is virtually the only version of eight-ball played in Mexico, other than in the Mexico–US border area.
In Mexico, a minority of players rack with the 8 ball rather than the apex ball on the foot spot, a trait in common with British blackball/8-ball pool. Pocketing the 8 ball on the is an instant win, as it usually is in American bar pool, but is not in the international rules. The only ball-in-hand (behind the head string) foul in Mexican pool is the cue ball into a pocket; other fouls are simply loss-of-turn. Because Mexican pool, except near the US border, is almost always played on open-pocket pool-hall-style tables, rather than coin-operated tables that trap object balls, any of one's own balls pocketed on a foul are (but how they are spotted varies widely, with the balls often placed against the on the , and adjacent to nearby if more than one must be spotted, instead of on the foot spot, but sometimes even to the side at diamonds, due to the influence of coyote, a Mexican variant of Chicago; foot-spot spotting is neither common nor uncommon.) Pool itself is not considered a very serious game in the country other than in the northern states; in most of Mexico, three-cushion billiards is the serious game, while pool is mostly played by youths, by groups of friends (including many young women) as a bar game to pass the time, and by older working-class men as an after-work activity. In many recreation halls, dominoes is more popular than pool.
In Brazil, a foul is generally punished by pocketing the lowest-numbered ball of the opponent. In that case, the cue ball remains where it stopped, as ball-in-hand is not commonly used. Additionally, in the case of scratching the cue ball, the opponent places the cue ball in , on the , or most commonly anywhere inside , indicating some British snooker and/or blackball influence.
Most commonly of all in American , it is generally required that all shots be in detail, as to what balls and bank/kick cushions will be involved in the shot, with the shot considered a turn-ending (but not ball-in-hand) foul if not executed precisely as planned (and a loss of game if the "foul" shot pocketed the 8 ball). Contrariwise, some Americans hold that nothing other than the 8 ball has to be called in any way — "" counts.
In informal amateur play in most areas, the table will only be considered open if no balls were pocketed, or an equal number of stripes and solids were pocketed, or the cue ball was (into a pocket or off the table), on the ; if an odd number of balls were legally pocketed, such as one solid and two stripes, or no solids and one stripe, the breaker must shoot the stripes (in these examples). The table is almost never considered so as for it to be legal to use a ball of the opposite , much less the 8 ball, as the first ball in a combination shot while the table is open (despite this being perfectly legal in WPA World Standardized and many US league rules). In non- it is fairly common for a foul break in which the rack was not struck at all (e.g., due to a ) to be re-shot by the original breaker.
Fouls, in common bar pool, that are not cue ball scratches generally only cause loss of turn, with cue ball left in place (even if it is ). Even in the case of a scratch, this only results in behind the . Handling of fouls while shooting at and/or pocketing the 8 ball varies widely, from area to area, in bar pool. In some cases any foul while shooting at but not pocketing the 8 is a loss of game, in others only a foul while otherwise successfully pocketing the 8, and in yet others only certain fouls, such as also sinking an opponent's ball, while pocketing the 8 (that last is not even a recognized foul of any kind in the international and major American league rulesets, and may have been imported from Canada).
What is considered a foul further diverges from established, published rulesets. Scoop-under are usually considered valid (these are fouls in WPA (and most US league) rules, as they are , though few players realize it). When a cue ball is frozen or near-frozen to an object ball, shooting it dead-on, in line with both balls, is a foul in formal rulesets (as another kind of double-hit), but is generally tolerated in bar pool.
Other US bar pool oddities varying from area to area include: Knocking the cue ball off the table on the break may be an instant loss; scratching on the break may be an instant loss; pocketing the 8 ball on the break (without scratching) may be either an instant win or instant loss (the latter being a rare variant); no safeties may be allowed at all – all shots may be required to be at least vaguely plausible attempts to pocket a legal ball; all jump shots may be banned; may be banned; it may be illegal to use the 8 ball in any way in combinations, caroms or kisses; the 8 ball may be required to be pocketed "cleanly" in the sense of no contact with other object balls (even if the can be accurately called); failure to hit one of one's own object balls (or the 8 if shooting for the 8) may be considered a "table scratch" that gives the opponent a shot in-hand from behind the head string; failure to hit the 8 if shooting for the 8 may be a loss of game; and a "split" shot, where the cue ball simultaneously strikes a legal ball and an opponent's object ball, may be considered legal shots, as long as it is called as a split shot, and the hit is in fact simultaneous to the human eye.
Most American league players are also bar pool players outside of league matches and will happily switch back and forth between league rules and their local house rules, depending on whom their opponents are.
Due probably to the influence of nine-ball, in which the 1 ball must be the apex ball of the rack, most American bar players traditionally rack a game of eight-ball with the 1 ball in this position. Racking is also typically done solid-stripe-solid-stripe-solid along the two sides of the rack, resulting in solids being on all three corners. This is not a legal rack in World Standardized Rules, nor any other notable league ruleset, because it gives an automatic, strong statistical advantage to solids.
"" is a common American amateur variation, especially on coin-operated (because it usually makes the game last longer), in which the 8 ball must be off one or more (may also qualify in some versions), into the ; either player may suggest bank-the-eight at any time before or during the game, and the other may accept or refuse; all other rules apply as usual. Playing bank-the-eight may be considered rude if there is a long line of players waiting to use the table.
A similarly-motivated variant is "", in which the 8 ball must be pocketed in the same pocket as the shooting player's last object ball (i.e., each player may be said to eventually "own" a pocket in which their 8 ball shot must be played if they have already run out their ); all other rules apply as usual. > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >